SearchResurrection of Persia

Resurrection of Persia ...
dailytimes.com.pk 06/06/2017 Politics

Keywords:#2015, #Afghanistan, #Ahmadinejad, #American, #Arab, #Arabia, #Asia, #Azerbaijan, #Bashar_al-Assad, #Central_Asia, #China, #Dailytimes.com.pk, #Donald_Trump, #Europe, #France, #Gas_Pipeline, #Germany, #Haider_al-Abadi, #Hassan_Rouhani, #Hezbollah, #Hossein_Dehghan, #India, #Iran, #Iranian, #Iran–Kyrgyzstan, #Iraq, #Islamic, #Islamic_Revolution, #Japan, #Jordan, #Khan, #Khatami, #King_Salman, #Korea, #Kyrgyzstan, #Lebanon, #Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad, #Mashhad, #Middle_East, #Military, #Muslim, #Pakistan, #Pakistani, #Persia, #Persian, #Persian_Empire, #Peshawar, #PhD, #President, #President_Rouhani, #Prime_Minister, #Rafsanjani, #Revolution, #Rouhani, #Russia, #Saddam, #Saudi, #Saudi_Arabia, #Shia, #Shia_Muslim, #South_Asia, #South_Korea, #Sunni, #Syria, #Tajikistan, #Tehran, #Trump, #Turkey, #Turkmenistan, #UK, #US, #University, #Uzbekistan, #Yemen

Iran is excelling in three fronts: Religiously, politically and economically. And it is not a faraway when Iran will become the true successor of Persia, not physically, but religiously, politically and economically in the Middle East, Central Asia and So
05-Jun-17 by Naimat Ullah Khan
THE toppling of Saddam Hussain of Iraq in 2003 has paved the way for Iran to regain its lost prestige in the region which was rightly titled by King Abdullah of Jordan as ‘Shia Crescent”. Now this crescent has been turning into full moon after successful agreement of Iran with P5+1 on nuclear proliferation which was spearheaded by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in July 2015. As a result of the President Rouhani’s policy from ‘disengagement’ to ‘engagement with the world’ leading to expansion of Iran’ influence not only on religious front but equally on economic and political spheres.
Iran is no doubt the spiritual centre of Shia Muslims after the Shia Islamic Revolution in 1979; Iran has become the champion of Shia sect. All Shia Muslims see Iran as guardian of their sect and have emotional attachment as many Sunni Muslims have with Saudi Arabia. This emotional attachment does not undermine the importance of Holy cities of Makkah and Madina in the hearts of Shia Muslims. It is evident from a reply of Iranian defence minister, Hossein Dehghan, in a response to a threat by Saudi Prince “Tehran would hit back at most of the Saudi Arabia with the exception of Makkah and Madina if the Kingdom did anything ignorant.”
This religious competition has also its impacts on the politico-religious levels in the region across the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. According to reports Iran is providing political support (including financial and non-financial) to all Shia groups and regimes such as Hezbollah in South of Lebanon, Bashar al-Assad government in Syria, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Iraq and Shia Communities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan etc. These days, Iran is head-to-head with Saudi Arabia on conflict with Syria and Yemen. The 30 plus Muslim countries alliance – Islamic Military Alliance – headed by former Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, has no clear mission and vision rather than a Saudi-lead alliance to counter the growing influence of Iran in the region. This argument can be supported from the speeches of US president Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman at the recent Arab-Islamic-American summit last week, which has categorically asserted to encounter the growing influence of Iran in the region.
After 1979, Iran indulged in a war with Iraq for 8-years (1980-88). The war had affected the Iran’s quasi-socialist economy badly. Afterwards, the economy further faced a setback when UN imposed sanctions in a wake of its nuclear programme. It is pertinent to mention here that it is the private sector which showed resilience during the period of sanctions. Some economic reforms regarding openness of economy for foreign investors were taken between 1997-2005 by President Rafsanjani and President Muhammad Khatami, especially to bring back the exiled Iranian businessmen to re-start their businesses in Iran. However, many economic reforms did not produce the desired results due to the inward policies of populist and radical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with his tougher stance against the west. Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09 further deteriorated the economic situation of Iran in a way that economy witnessed a 45 percent reduction in exports in 2015 in comparison to 2010; imports decreased by 8.9% during this period. In 2006, the five permanent member of the UN (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US) along with Germany started negotiation with Iran on its nuclear program. However, all the efforts did not materialize until recently under the reformist regime of President Hassan Rouhani who took charge in August 2013. With his special focus, the final draft of the agreement got approved in July 2015. Under the agreement, Iran is supposed to abolish the nuclear program and the UN will ease the sanctions gradually. It is believed that the major reason for Iran to accept this agreement is the deteriorating situation of its economy.
Besides champion of Shia Muslim on religious front, “Iranians understand that their influence next door can only be ensured by economic ties”, writes Vali Nasr. This is the reason that Iran is offering and portraying Chahbahar as international sea port for all regional countries especially the landlocked countries of Central Asia and Afghanistan; India has a ‘special’ backing for Chahbahar sea port which is a balanced alternative transit route to Pakistani Gwardar port with a distance of merely 70 Kilometres. In order to increase its economic clout in the region, Iran has entered into many agreements with all regional countries. For example, two trilateral trade and transit contracts were signed among India-Iran-Afghanistan and Iran-Tajikistan-Afghanistan and four bilateral trade and transit agreements were signed among Iran, India, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In December 2014, five-nation agreement on railways (Afghanistan–China–Iran–Kyrgyzstan–Tajikistan) was singed that will link China with Iran via Afghanistan. In addition, many highways are underway to link Iran to Afghanistan and Central Asia republics; Mashhad city of Iran plays as a transit hub for the neighbouring Eastern and Northern countries. The top five trading countries of Iran are China, India, South Korea, Turkey and Japan. In 2016, Iran exported US$45.9 billion worth of goods around the world which is 11.4% more than 2015; this increase is largely contributed to the ease of sanctions as a result of the agreement with P5+1. Similarly, Iranian export to neighbour Afghanistan has increased significantly since this agreement (about $1808 million, latest figure).
On one side, India is among the top export destinations of Iranian goods (especially oil) and on other hand, Iran has extended its wish to join hands in Pakistan’ CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) which is a ‘flagship’ project of China’ One Belt One Road’ initiative. We should not forget the singed, but unfortunate non-materialized, project of Iran-Pakistan-India Gas Pipeline. Historically, the boundaries of ancient Persian Empire comprise part of South Asia, Central Asia and Middle East; even in remote past, part of Europe was under the control of this great empire. Iran is excelling in three fronts: Religiously, politically and economically. And it is not a faraway when Iran will become the true successor of Persia, not physically, but religiously, politically and economically in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia regions. The re-election of Hassan Rouhani on May 19, 2017 for the second tenure is an endorsement by Iranian people, more specifically by working middle class, for his reforms in economic and political policies of ‘engagement with the world’ as asserted by the President in his victory speech.

The writer is PhD and assistant professor at the University of Peshawar. He can be reached at naimatims@yahoo.com
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